James L. Rubart
I have eaten tripe. When i was taking a course on Early Sixteenth Century Poetry while at university we had a banquet, of sorts, and tripe was one of the dishes served. I seem to remember that it was chewy, tasteless, rather a struggle to eat, and not really worth it. I was not defeated, however, and ate it.
This tripe has defeated me. It thus enters very limited company: Over the past ten years i have read well over a thousand books and, in that time, i can think of four that i have not finished ~ it’s almost a point of pride with me to finish a book i start. Princess Casamassima defeated me so far, though i think i’ll probably go back to it again one day; Crichton’s Disclosure and Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man both dragged me down; and a book from Asimov’s Foundation series written by someone other than him just wasn’t worth it. And now this.
I’m some five chapters into Rooms and i don’t care if the protagonist lives or dies. Really. He has absolutely no interest for me. Oh, he’s an immensely successful software tycoon. So? Oh, someone’s given him a house. So? It’s perfect for him. So what: I don’t care. I don’t even know that it is perfect for him, because i don’t know anything about him. The author, James L. Rubart, i believe this is his first published work, has given me nothing to make me want to go on learning about Micah Taylor: He’s not an attractive character, he has some mystery in his past but what it is isn’t clear, he doesn’t know why he’s been given this house, doesn’t really seem to care, but is willing to put everything on hold while he explores it. Well, i’m not.
I have read ~ and finished! ~ books before where i have not cared for the protagonist, but in those cases the level of writing is enough to draw me it while i learn to care. Not here. This is written at just a hair above the “Dick and Jane” level of elementary school primer. The reader is told everything, shown nothing, which is precisely the reverse of the way it is taught in the most basic of writing classes.
I could go on, but why? I read The Shack, to which this is unwisely compared on the front cover, several times; it’s simple, unrealistic, but compelling. I’ve also read The Screwtape Letters, to which it is also compared, a number of times; it is funny, truthful (if not true), and immensly clever. Rooms is not.